Posts Tagged ‘American Civil War’

The Ethnic in Cinema

January 13, 2011

The good thing about writing this blog are the many ideas I can explore when it comes to pop culture as it relates to movies and collecting. In researching this week’s entry, I came across a notice for an exhibit in suburban Washington D.C. about African-American movie posters from 1915-1975. (To learn more about this exhibit, go to

That got me thinking (uh-oh you must be saying) about how the ethnic is portrayed in film. What do I mean by ethnic? For this blog entry, I mean any non-WASP person that lives in the United States. Yes, that covers a lot of territory. So, what are some of the ways that ethnics have been portrayed?  Well there’s:

Almost every phrase that comes out of the ethnic’s mouth is preceded by a “Yes, sir/Yes, ma’am” and the ethnic knows that it is futile to rock the class boat, so he or she doesn’t. The most famous example of this is Gone with the Wind. Granted GWTW is not history, it is a love story that takes place  during the years before, during and after the American Civil War, still its sanitized view of slavery and life in the American South irritates me.

Old World Ways/New World Opportunity
The paradox that every immigrant to the U.S. faces, how to reconcile the traditional with the modern, what parts of the old must tossed aside and what parts of the new can be integrated with the old. Some, like Charlie Chan in all those Charlie Chan movies seamslessly blend the two and uses them both for his benefit and the benefit of others. (FYI: The character of Charlie Chan was based on a real life Chinese-American police detective from Honolulu by the name of Chang Apana.) Others, like Toula in My Big Fat Greek Wedding finds her true self in the mix of old and new and uses this knowledge to create a life she can be proud of. Either way, the ethnic does what one can and the ethnic lives happily ever after.

Bright-Eyed Innocent
To steal a line from Russian-American comedian Yakov Smirnoff, “What a country!” Where else can children dress up as monsters and beg candy off of strangers. That’s not the only great thing about the U.S. Some, like the characters in the independent film Amreeka are attracted to the U.S. as a sanctuary against oppression. Others, like the title character in Borat, seek to find out what the U.S. is really like—with comedic results.

Gets the Pie by Hook and Crook (Especially the Crook Part)
No doubt, it is hard to integrate into a new country. Some people when faced with difficulties, work harder to achieve a good life for themselves and their family. Others, when faced with difficulties, turn to criminal activity to achieve a good life for themselves and their family. Films such as Godfather movies, Little Caesar and Scarface (both the 1932 and 1983 versions) show both the rise and fall of these individuals. As the saying goes, “You live by the sword…”

So, there you have it folks, different views of the ethnic. What other views of the ethnic will there be? It all depends on the point the either the movie’s director or screenwriter or actor or actress wants to make.



It Came From The Stacks

August 25, 2010

Recently, the movie Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts opened in theaters. The movie is based on the book of the same name by Elizabeth Gilbert and it deals with one woman’s post divorce soul search via travel. This is not the first time a book was the source material for a movie. In fact, many, many movies were based on books. So much so, someone could do a blog on all the movies that were based on books.  (ha-ha)

Well, if you think that I’m going to do a blog entry about books that have been made into movies, I have this to say:

You’re right.

While I can’t write about all the books that have been made into movies, I will feature some notable examples.

The Bible
Yes, the best selling book of all time has spawned quite a few movies.  They include:

The Ten Commandments
Released in 1923 and a remake came out in 1956. The 1956 version starred Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner. Based on the book of Exodus and regarding the 1956 version, in a nutshell, Moses (Heston) is raised in Pharaoh’s household and is loved by all, except by his brother Rameses (Brynner). Moses discovers he is not Egyptian is banished from Egypt, he later returns and declares “Let my people GO!” Oh and Brynner does a lot of scowling. The 1923 and 1956 films were directed by none other than Cecil B. DeMille. So, stop being mad at George Lucas for wanting to revisit Star Wars. Lucas was just following DeMille’s footsteps.

The Bible…In the Beginning
Released in 1966. Based on the book of Genesis, which means it starts with Creation and ends with Abraham being told not sacrifice his son, Isaac. This film also features director John Huston as Noah and George C. Scott as Abraham.

The Passion of the Christ
Released in 2004. Based on the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus, by way of the Gospels according to Sts. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The film starred James Caviezel as Jesus and was directed by Mel Gibson. At the time it was released, there was a lot of controversy. Some said film was anti-semitic in tone. Others took issue with the violence in the film. When the film’s theatrical release ended, the controversy died down and life went on, the same as it always did.

Gone With The Wind
Released in 1939, this is the movie most people think of when the phrase “Based on the best selling book” comes to mind. Based on the book by the same name by Margaret Mitchell, the movie deals with two people, Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, and how they lived and loved during the time period before, during and after the American Civil War. The movie also features one of the most quoted lines in the history of American films. If I have tell you what that line is, I have this to say:

Frankly my dear, have you been living under a rock?

Wuthering Heights
Released the same year as Gone With The Wind and is overshadowed by that film. Based on the book of the same name by Emily Brontë, it deals with the love of Heathcliff, an orphan brought to Wuthering Heights and Catherine Earnshaw, the daughter of the owner of Wuthering Heights. Circumstances force them apart but their love for each other never dies. None other than Sir Laurence Olivier is Heathcliff and Merle Oberon is Catherine in this movie. The book has gone through many film and television adaptations, yet Olivier/Oberon version is considered by many to be the definitive film version. FYI: Timothy Dalton (James Bond of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s) was cast as Heathcliff in the 1970 film.

The Bridges Of Madison County
Moving up a couple of decades, this film came out in 1995. Based on the book of the same name by Robert James Waller, this deals with a four-day affair between Francesca Johnson, Iowa housewife/World War II bride from Italy and Robert Kincaid, a National Geographic photographer. Meryl Streep with a very convincing Italian accent, played Francesca (of course), Clint Eastwood played Robert and was the director of this film. Yet, for some strange reason, this film did not receive any Academy Awards. Bummer.

There you have it, several examples of books that were made into films. Of course, nowadays, many writers are interested in writing the Great American Blog, as opposed to  book. Here’s an idea for you. A movie based on a blog! Oh wait, that’s been done with Julie & Julia.

What about a movie based on a blog that deals with collecting, movie posters and pop culture as it relates to the movie industry?  Now, that would make a great movie! Don’t you think?